Cancelling An United Award Ticket At The Last Minute

by joeheg

I’ve learned quite a bit about canceling award tickets over the past year. If you needed to get to your destination, having backup plans was almost a requirement for flying in the summer, due to the frequent meltdowns happening with every airline.  For several trips, I booked a backup award ticket with a different airline just in case we encountered a canceled flight or a major delay. Fortunately, I didn’t have to use any of the backup flights and as soon as boarding started for our primary flight, I canceled our backup flights using the airlines’ respective app. In these cases, the miles were redeposited in my account and I received a refund of the $5.60 in taxes to my credit card.

While travel seems to be getting back to normal, there’s not as much need to book a backup flight. However, I needed to put my knowledge to use when we had plans to be in New York for the weekend and a major hurricane looked like it might hit Florida. The problem with tropical weather systems is they’re unpredictable. You’re not sure about when they’re going to arrive or for how long you’ll be affected. Case in point, our original flight to New York was on the Friday after a hurricane that was scheduled to hit Wednesday and/or Thursday. So we decided if we couldn’t travel that day, we could still try to leave on Saturday and still salvage the trip.

I found a flight on United for early Saturday morning. I did a quick search on United’s award cancellation policy and found they’re one of the airlines that still charge to redeposit miles…unless they don’t. The policy on United’s website says they’ll charge a $125 fee for canceling a ticket for travel originating in the U.S., with miles redeposited 30 or fewer days before departure. The fees vary depending on your United status and all of the variations can be found at this link.

However, there are several websites reporting that United isn’t charging the fee to redeposit miles a this time. Even if they were, there’s an easy way to get around paying the fee.  Since there was a high chance I’d be able to get my miles back, I went ahead and booked the Saturday morning tickets.

As it turned out, our Friday flights were canceled on Tuesday and Orlando Airport was closed to commercial flights from Wednesday morning to Friday afternoon. To our surprise, our original flights were changed to Saturday. So as long as things went to plan, we wouldn’t need our United flight after all.

I had concerns there could be delays or cancellations but when our plane arrived the night before, I was feeling better about our early Saturday morning flight. After we got through the TSA checkpoint, I opened the United app to cancel the flight. (And yes, we were at the airport and through security at 5:49 AM. Ugh.)

a screenshot of a phone

Notice that I was offered the option to cancel and rebook later with a credit or I could cancel and redeposit the miles. I chose to redeposit the miles.  All I had to do was tap the Confirm cancellation button.

a screenshot of a receipt

I received the 15K miles for each ticket and $39.20, which covered the taxes and amount I had paid for seat assignments. While it says the redeposit fee was waived based on my membership status, I currently have no status with United.

The miles showed up in the account immediately but I’m still waiting to receive a refund for the taxes and fees.

For this example, it was extremely easy to cancel our United flight for a full refund only a few hours before the trip. Since the rules on United’s website still say they can charge $125, it would be nice if they would either change the website or, even better, eliminate the redeposit fee, as most other frequent flyer programs have done.

Whatever the reason, I’m happy we were able to cancel the flight and even happier that we were able to get to New York. I’ll write more about this amazingly chaotic week in an upcoming post.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

1 comment

JohnC October 4, 2022 - 12:47 pm

Looks like an abuse of the system. No wonder American stopped with the free 24 hour holds, too many people abusing it.


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